Summary: We need to learn how to handle the hardships of life.
THE CHURCH’S PERSEVERANCE
Introduction: Blessed are they that endure! Often times we just have to weather the storm. According to Bill Hybels the single most pressing issue for many pastors relates to enduring. Do I have what it takes to make it? Am I going to survive my calling? Am I going to make it across the finish line? How does one time his burnout just before his crack-up?
Not only are pastors concerned with this, so are many church members. A lot are going through some tough times – physically, financially and emotionally. Sadly, some have checked-out, others have just given-up. We need to learn how to handle the hardships of life.
The word “endure” (v. 3, 10, 12) means to suffer together with someone, to join the ranks of those who suffer. Life is not always comfortable. C. S. Lewis wrote, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
There are some valuable lessons to learn from this chapter.
I. The Journey of Life is Full of Hard Knocks (3, 9)
Living for Christ will get you into a lot of hot water. (Daniel in the lion’s den. Hebrew children in fiery furnace. Paul in prison. Christ on the cross.)
II. God Provides Insight to Those Who will Listen (7)
Note the words “reflect” and “insight.” Paul gives three illustrations.
A. Be Like a Good Soldier – A soldier has to train, battle and please his commander. He doesn’t dabble in trivial pursuits. He has singleness of purpose. Some soldiers of the church have gone AWOL. Some need to be dishonorably discharged. Quit trying to please everyone and focus on the Commander.
B. Be Like a Disciplined Athlete (5) – Can’t finish strong if you don’t train well. There are no shortcuts to effectiveness.
C. Be Like a Hardworking Farmer (6) – Recognize the principle of sowing and reaping.
III. Life is not Always Fair (8-9)
Think about this. Here is Paul who is, perhaps, the greatest Christian outside of Jesus nearing the end of his life. He’s been faithful. He should be having a banquet; having a going away party; enjoying a reception; receiving plaques, awards and recognition. Instead he is in a dark, dreary, dismal dungeon dealt with like a dog gone mad. God, is this how you treat your servants? Is this your payoff? John exiled to Patmos. The disciples martyred. Paul in prison. Jesus on a cross. This is not fair! Get used to it (4:7-8). The good guys don’t always get the promotion.
IV. Don’t Ever Overlook the Purpose of Your Hardships (10)
You never know what God is accomplishing through your hardship. Paul’s sufferings would be the means God used to bring his elect salvation.
Conclusion: Instead of burning-out or cracking up, why don’t you bow down and thank the one who can see you through. Endure. Persevere. Hang in there. Stay the course.